The great race debate: Part 2

2015-01-25 10:00

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Nelson Mandela’s former private assistant Zelda la Grange sparked a massive Twitter war that quickly moved into the real world last Saturday when she suggested that white people didn’t feel welcome in South Africa.

After a week of condemnation, support, discussion and debate, City Press asked a number of ordinary South Africans whether they agreed with La Grange. Here’s what they had to say.

Sifiso Sibande (33) from Freedom Park near Soweto says she does not think white people are racist at all.

Sifiso Sibande. Picture: Elizabeth Sejake

The mother of a one-year-old, who works as a cleaner at the Maharishi Institute in downtown Joburg, feels whites are generally good people who are sometimes misunderstood.

“In all my life I have never been treated unfairly by a white person. In fact, the white people I work with have shown me nothing but love and treated me with respect.

“As far as my experiences are concerned, I cannot say whites are racist or disrespectful towards black people. I would even encourage my child to embrace white people, form friendships and become a modern citizen.”

Sibande says it will be a sad day if white people were sent away. “They are essentially part of South Africa and they should not be told to go back to Europe as they also belong in South Africa.”

Enett Tiro (27) runs a hair salon in Joburg and lives in Belgravia

Enett Tiro. Picture: Elizabeth Sejake/City Press

Tiro originally hails from Zeerust and says she once dated a white man, but whenever they went to eat out, she would always be treated with contempt and suspicion.

She says she remembers an incident when she and her boyfriend were denied a table at a restaurant in Bronkhorstspruit.

Instead, they were offered takeaways and her boyfriend accepted.

“I will never forget that day … I was so upset that I could not even eat the takeaways we managed to get after being told we were not going to get a table if he was with me.”

Tiro says in her experience with racism, Pretoria and North West are by far the most racist places she has been to. However, she says ever since she settled n Johannesburg she finds the place far less racist as black people generally exist side by side with white people without many problems.

“I think most white people seem to think they are superior to us. But they need to change their attitude towards black people so we can all enjoy being South African,” says the thriving businesswoman when asked what white people had to do to improve the situation.

Bantu Sithole (29) from Centurion is a self-employed telecommunications consultant who feels that black and white people are equally racist.

Bantu Sithole. Picture: Muntu Vilakazi/City Press

“For 20 years we have been told white people are not good for us as black people because they are racist. That perception will not just die in 20 minutes as we are equally racist as black people. We cannot be right when we see racism as a white thing only because I am also racist in my own way, and so is everyone.”

Although he did not want to elaborate on any incidents of racism he has encountered, Sithole says he has faced prejudice “a number of times”.

“But for racism to be controlled and minimised, you guys [the media] must stop reporting on race irresponsibly. The media are responsible for perpetuating racism. The way you report on racism will not solve the problems, but you make problems worse because this sells papers.”

Sithole says the media must shoulder much of the blame for making racism worse and no other remedy exists except for the media to report responsibly by reporting things as they are without trying to “sell papers”.

“There is a level of distrust that exists between white people and black people, even to those who call one another friends.”

Although he would like to call some of the white people in his circle, friends, Sithole says he simply cannot bring himself to call them friends and he is sure his white friends also do not recognise him as a friend, but more of a business associate.

“But I am happy that in the next 10 years or so, we might finally get rid of racism through our children who might see beyond the colour line,” he says.

* For more views on race, check back at noon. In the meantime, talk to us on Twitter @City_Press and tell us: #arewhiteswelcome

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